I welcome you to explore a bit about who I am and what I do
Thanks for the visit

Photo by Brandon Scott Herrell

 Photo b y     Eva Kolenko

Photo by Eva Kolenko

Recent ramblings and updates from yours truly
 –summer 2018–

I am often asked how I began my career as a “shepherdess” and what exactly is the work of this ancient vocation in a modern-day context. My usual response is something like,  “I feel like I had no choice! It’s my personal calling. It requires creativity, hard work, straddles the worlds of urban and rural and is meaningful”. If there is a head turn or a slight squint in confusion, I go on to describe how I’ve come to find that my joy, sense of pride and purpose, and quality of life have been shaped around my pursuit of answers to the question: How I can be a part of preserving and igniting rich cultural experiences in a rapidly developing world? Along my journey across the world, I’ve come to find that my connection with people and my surroundings stem from the sharing of food, collaborating with others, and sharing spontaneous moments of wonderment in both natural and built landscapes.

I first experienced the rich culture of pastoralism through the Maasai when I lived and traveled in Tanzania, and my path has since been forged by further enriching ecological and agricultural  experiences. My calling as a shepherdess has me straddling the allures of rich, bustling urban worlds with my innate connection with the natural environs of the West. My work in land and livestock managing grazing in non-traditional places like the Oakland hills has shaped my career as a modern-day shepherdess.

With this said, I’m not always tending sheep and goats. I’m not always in the country with crook in-hand, nor building fences nor loading trucks and trailers with hundreds of animals alongside my dear and dedicated grazier comrades. My version of this work requires me to wear many hats, which I sometimes have to throw on and off in a matter of minutes. I am an entrepreneur, an artisan, an educator, an advocate, a city dweller, an outdoor adventurer, an animal whisperer, a truck driver, a dog’s best friend,  a laborer, a peer, a collaborator, a problem-solver, and a life-long learner.

In a time where so many are recognizing the value in having meaningful work contributing to positive change in the world, I have been in contact with individuals from both the urban world and the rural, from a diverse array of backgrounds and demographics, who reach out to me to ask how they could get a start in my work. Recognizing all of the challenges and barriers of entry in getting a start to bootstrapping a new business in land and livestock, like where to keep the animals year round, to technical skills and things that you learn only through experience, to finances, insurance and acquiring reliable sources of income, it’s become my goal to figure out a way that folks such as myself with no familial background or resources in agriculture can get a start, and a viable one at that.  

To turn my livelihood/work/passion/calling into a movement that I’ve been calling New Pastoralism, I’ve experienced burnout, reignited enthusiasm, burnout again, inspiration, and hope, and I’ve now come to learn that it’s all a part of this grand calling that I hope others too can discover for themselves. In addition to my personal work, I have dedicated myself to figuring out how can I help forge/create career paths for others to experience this meaningful work that is needed critically not only for managing the land, nurturing soil, supporting resilience in our food and fiber system, and controlling wildfires, but also to cultivate viable livelihoods that are good for the heart and nourish those hungry for work that is meaningful, rewarding, challenging and brings a deeper connection to the natural world.  

Since the last update about this project much has happened. The Quivira Coalition, a non-profit organization based out of New Mexico has become a partnering collaborator. Our growing team has together developed and submitted a second grant proposal for funding through the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and are currently awaiting response from the long review process, all the while we have raised the first round of support funding allowing me and collaborators more dedicated time and focus to gather information about the needs from industry stakeholders and those who are interested in training to create a career in land stewardship, animal husbandry, and/or food and fiber production. This next phase will also include developing new relationships, collaborations and pilot projects to create future opportunities for trainees to segway into post-training. The goal is to create a program that has a multi-faceted approach to helping to ready trainees through technical skill-building, translation of knowledge and experience through experienced and seasoned producers, practitioners and professionals, on-the-ground trial, tribulation and reward by doing, networking and linking trainees to professional opportunities after their program completion.

Now is the time! I believe that meaningful work that builds the bridge of connection between cultures, environments, approaches and opportunities in stewarding our land, addressing public safety from natural disaster, growing healthy and ethically produced food and fiber are efforts, my life's work that brings me a sense of belonging and purpose. My hope is that others too can find their purpose through this rewarding, challenging, character building and extraordinarily rich life experience that is the path of the modern-day grazier, as a land and livestock steward.






 Check out a small video made about the work that got me started back in 2012. Clink image below.

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